COVID-19 unemployment: Make agri-food systems equitable for youth, says UN report

The report emphasised on the role of youth as agents of change in food systems  

By Susan Chacko
Published: Wednesday 07 July 2021

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) affected labour markets around the world, hurting employment prospects for the youth more than those belonging to other age groups. Globally, employment among the youth fell 8.7 per cent in 2020 compared with 3.7 per cent for adults.

But making agriculture-food systems more appealing to the youth can secure the future of global food security and nutrition, a recent United Nations report has said.

Food systems can provide opportunities to engage and employ youth globally. Redistribution of resources, knowledge and opportunities for the same can help develop labour policies, which could not only contribute to creating jobs for the youth but may also directly support transitions to sustainable food systems, according to the report released by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

CFS is an international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work to ensure food security and nutrition for all. The committee reports to the UN General Assembly. 

Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), QU Dongyu, said:

“Employment and engagement of young people in the agri-food systems is crucial for the future of global food security and nutrition, across all its dimensions. Today’s youth has to cope with the effects of environmental and climate change, which are likely to intensify during their lifetimes. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the young were looking at a world that was not on track to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) related to food security...”

Youth aged between 15 and 24 years accounted for 16 per cent of the world’s population in 2019. Young people were concentrated in Asia, Central and Southern Asia with 361 million youth and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with 307 million youth, followed by sub-Saharan Africa (211 million youth).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 440 million youth from the African continent would enter the labour market between 2015 and 2030.

In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, agriculture and food systems employ most people. These regions also experience challenges related to food security, equitable development and climate change.

Young people are playing an active role in the transition towards sustainable food systems and they are demanding a shift from industrial agriculture — to place the right to food, traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of healthy food systems to achieve food and nutrition security.

Examples of global youth movements promoting rights to land, food and cultural heritage include 

The report recommended:

  • Providing an enabling environment for youth as agents of change
  • Securing dignified and rewarding livelihoods
  • Increasing equity and rights to resources to the youth to access, conserve and protect land, seeds and biodiversity, fisheries and forests. Ensuring recognition of their legitimate tenure rights
  • Enhancing knowledge, education and skills
  • Fostering sustainable innovation

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